45 Tudor City Place off East 43rd Street
$170 for two people, with drinks, without tip
♥ ♥ ♥
While in Colombia, we had a few unfortunate meals that involved pasta. Sure, Italy shares a lot of history with South America–the mass emigration of Italians was between 1876 to 1976 and brought a lot of them to countries like Argentina and then to Colombia–but the “Italian” meals we had didn’t quite involve a loving grandma in the kitchen. At the beach, vegetables were brought in from the nearest big city, about six hours away, so canned sauces were easier to come by. When there were fresh tomatoes, they were used with pasta that came in a box and because most of our meals weren’t cooked individually but in a big batch for the day’s guests, the concept of al dente was nonexistent.
Back in New York, I searched for that pasta lovingly massaged by big hands covered in flour and I found it at Convivio. We had no business spending any more money after our two-week trip, but I couldn’t resist Convivio’s $62 Sunday night prix fixe menu. Unlike most prix fixes in the city, their 4-course menu included a pasta and a dessert without skipping a separate main course. I opted to start with the yellow fin carpaccio drizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with finely chopped scallions and pistachios. I wanted to start light before my preferred pasta dish: saffron gnocchetti with crab and uni.
Did you just read that? Saffron gnocchetti with crab and sea urchin! I am not exaggerating here when I tell you that the combination made me roll my eyes back in ecstasy several times. Sea and earth have never smelled and tasted this heavenly together. The pasta was soft; full, yet springy at each bite. It was pasta at its best. At first, I thought the half portion would not be enough, but it was actually the right amount for such a rich dish. It left me wanting some more and yet I was completely satisfied. I think if I had a whole serving, I wouldn’t have cherished each spoonful as much as I did.
I could not say no to the duck breast. Duck is my new lamb. Done perfectly with Swiss chard alla Romana and spaghetti squash, it was the most beautiful wintery dish without being too heavy. Thankfully I was with someone who picked the lamb chops that tasted so carnivorously good with escarole and white beans. The last time I had lamb that tasted like it was just running an hour ago was at Per Se–that’s saying a lot for a most generous option on a prix fixe menu.
For dessert, it was a battle between the vanilla panna cotta with huckleberries and lemon sorbet or a trio of “freshly-spun” gelato (peach, mango, lemon the night of our visit). I am wont to order only one dessert and split it between me and my companions, if I order at all, but both were so irresistible that we shared them during our last few minutes in the restaurant.
If every homecoming meal was Convivio style, I would gladly suffer through a bad meal or two abroad just to remind me that sometimes you don’t have to go too far to enjoy a meal that’s full of heart–grandma or no grandma.